gettting started on the cheap

I've wanted to 'get into' metal working for quite a while but just haven't found the time.
My current experience is limited to a being a former farm boy who can use a
cutting torch and welder well enough to keep a grader blade or bush hog running but I haven't done any real machine work.
Now if I had the money I'd find a school and take a few classes then buy a room full of machines and go at it but I don't so. . .
I have been reading online about how to build a multimachine using old engine blocks (because they are machined where the cylinders are at 90 degrees from the heads) as the base.
http://opensourcemachine.org/node/2
Sounds like a cheap way to get started as well as a good leaning experience. In the machine info it talks about casting your own parts and following that I have been reading up on casting and building your own foundry.
Now with all that said the questions for ya'll:
1) What books would you suggest for a pre-newbie?
2) Does starting off building a machine sound like a good place for a pre-newbie to start or should I try to scrap up enough money to buy a small used lathe and/or milling machine and/or multiemachine?
3) Does anyone here cast their own parts? If so how hard was it to learn? 3a) Did you build your own furnace? On a scale of 1-100 how would you rate the difficulty of doing it?
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no spam wrote:

In a word , Gingery . This guy wrote an entire series of books starting with a charcoal foundry in a five gallon bucket and ending up with a room full of machine tools . If you've got hand skills , you can do it . If you're a klutz , buy a multimachine from Horror Fright or Cummins and get your feet wet . I sure wish I had room for a mill ...
--

Snag aka OSG #1
'90 Ultra , "Strider"
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<snip>

Been there, done that and have all the books to prove it :) I started out wanting to do his entire series but with three kids and a busy life in general I wound up buying a couple of Harbor Freight machines just so I could do something other than read about the things I wanted to play with.
I still want to build his shaper but that problably wont happen for a decade or so until I can retire and have alot more free time.
Right now I'm working on a small/cheap cnc machine I found on the instructables.com website. Very simple design using pipe and relatively cheap. Game plan is to use it to rough out pinewood derby cars for the kids to finish. I figured that since I do most of the rough cutting anyway that this will still be hands on and the fact that I can teach some cad to the girls will be a plus.
Bill
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wrote: <snip>

<snip> A word of warning. Don't assume that your health, eyesight, etc. will be adequate, when you retire and get the time. Do the stuff that you want now while you can.
Unka' George [George McDuffee] ===========Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, 17 March 1814.
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Too_Many_Tools wrote:

And I for one am a lucky man whose wife understands this . It helps that some of my projects are for her . Like the knurled aluminum knob on her toaster oven ...
--

Snag aka OSG #1
'90 Ultra , "Strider"
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On Fri, 12 Oct 2007 11:15:52 -0500, with neither quill nor qualm, F.

Amen. Turn off the TV and get those projects done. You'll lead a happier life, I guarantee.
My next step (treat) is learning to scuba dive.
--
Reading well is one of the great pleasures that solitude can afford you.
-- Harold Bloom, O Magazine, April 2003
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I'll second another poster's suggestion of using the Gingery books. I'm about 75% done building his metal lathe, and the instructions are very easy to follow. It's been on a back burner over the summer months, but I'll be finishing it up this fall.

Well, if you can build the machine you'll learn to use it in the process, so there is that. I'm slowly and steadily tooling up to making myself some big iron, but it's not something that a guy can do overnight on the cheap.

No. I intended to with the Gingery method, but I don't like the idea of making tools from aluminum, so I made a forge and bought an anvil instead. Making the lathe from steel using his plans works for me because I have access to a mill at work.

The forge I built is very similar to a Gingery style melting furnace in a lot of ways, only it lays on it's side and is for an entirely different purpose.
As far as the construction goes, I built the body, which is just a piece of sheetmetal with a couple of feet on it and an inlet tube on one side to clamp the burner into in about 2 hours. I'd give it a difficulty of 25/100- with 1 being tightening a loose screw, and 100 being making an engine from scratch. It's pretty easy, really. A slip roll and a welder is all that is needed, and you can skip the slip roll if you've got a big piece of pipe or even a good steel bucket.
The burner I made is a forced-air type that burns propane, and was made with about $35-40 in pipe from the hardware store. Most of it just screws together, and the trickiest part is drilling a centered hole through the back side of a cast-iron pipe elbow and welding a copper tube through it. The copper tube is the gas injector, and the cast elbow is where the air flows through from the blower. I say it's the trickiest part because it is, but it's really not that hard.
For the lining, I tracked down a place that let me have an open partial bag of 1" thick Kaowool that they had in their warehouse. I wanted to buy it, but evidently the paperwork would have been a headache for the guy that owned the place (they were an industrial supplier, and would have had to not only set up an account for me, but sell me a minium of a full roll for some reason I didn't quite understand), so he just gave it to me.
You'll find that the hardest part of building anything is just getting started. Once you've got the materials on hand, a determined guy can build anything- and it's often a lot easier than you ever expected.
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On Sat, 13 Oct 2007 06:30:07 -0500, Prometheus

If you want to get started machining..buy a used machine and learn to use it. They can be had for little or no money. Ask me how I know...
If you want a hobby of casting and building machinery..then yes..Gingery is good.
By getting a machine thats already done.. you will be making chips in short order....75% and finishing it up this fall (maybe) is simply drawing out the learning curve.
Gunner
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The Gingery books are fun reading, if for nothing else than to help get you in the right mindset...

...but this is the way to go. For one thing, a number of the components that were cheap in Gingery's time have now gone way up in price, possibly as much as an import mini-lathe by the time you add in shipping, unless you're a really good scrounge. And if you're a good scrounge, you will soon find that the machines themselves aren't that hard to get. All it really takes is persistence. I have a lathe and mill in my garage for less that $1k, not including tooling or delivery. And the lathe will swing 14" and the mill is bridgeport size Index, considerably more capability than the Gingery tools.
One of these days I still mean to build the shaper, and maybe the dividing head. But in the mean time, watch the classified ad magazines, craigslist, and eBay. Heck, just start talking to anybody that you see selling tools, not everything they have gets advertised, or will fit in the back of a pickup to end up at the flea market, or fits out on the shelves of their second hand store. The guy I bought my mill from parts out machines to sell on ebay because no-one wants to ship a whole machine. Find a guy like that near you... --Glenn Lyford
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Ok, HOW?
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Start haunting Craigslist. Start driving down the back alleys behind machine shops and paying attention to the machinery out back. Read the local ads in your paper, become aquainted with the local scrap dealers. Hit a bunch of machine shops and let the owners know you are looking for old machinery. They often have stuff taking up badly needed floor space, and they network with other shops. Call up all the machine repair guys in the phone book, and tell em what you are looking for. Find out who the other hobby guys are in your area, and network, network network.
Legwork, and face time with shop owners/recyclers/hobbyists will find you machines.
http://home.lightspeed.net/~gunner/myshop
Im poor. I couldnt have afforded to buy all that.
Gunner, Master Scrounger
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On Mon, 15 Oct 2007 10:12:39 -0700, Gunner Asch

Damn...Im gonna have to update that thing soon....
Gunner
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On Sat, 13 Oct 2007 11:25:00 -0700, Gunner

Yes- I already know how to machine metal, and I don't have that much interest in running production parts in my basement, so I guess you could say that metalworking (at home- not at work) is a hobby of building machinery for me. At work, it's all about running the parts as fast as we can to someone else's specs, and if we need equipment, the boss buys it.

I do have one that's already done, awaiting a little more cleaning and a new motor. And it's a big old monster. But that isn't the point, in this case.
What it really comes down to is that I've hit a wall with what I can afford to purchase as home tooling without taking out loans, and if I do that, I'll have to find customers with reasonably regular orders to make the payments on them. I don't really want to do that, as my still somewhat distant plan is to build enough capacity and have it all paid for so that I can develop my own machines without having the pressure of meeting deadlines.
To put that another way, I think it would be rediculously cool to have a couple of pick-and-place style robots to play with, but I have neither the money nor a very good reason to have them. So, if I want them, I'll have to make them- building a lathe, a mill, and some other equipment is really good practice towards achieving that goal. If it turns out that I'm any good at it, maybe it'd turn into a business- if not, it'll be an interesting hobby.
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no spam wrote:

This newsgroup is a very good "book". One has to look past the off-topic stuff, but you have obviously done that. Actually, the OT posts can be a little entertaining, though can can interfere with finding the real traffic.

I second the used machine suggestion. You might even buy one new; just expect the tooling to double the price of a small one. Get an R8 taper; then tooling will likely follow you to another machine if you find the need.
I have a round column mill-drill, and am generally very happy with it. My only gripe is that the vertical feed lock is not as robust as I would like. I would like to back away and read drawings while the power feed does its thing, but I can't do that "in Z", at least not with anything beyond very light cuts. The problem is that light cuts generally imply I am near final dimension (or past it - grrrr! - still kicking myself from yesterday<g>), so that is not a time to ignore what is happening.
That said, it is a hell of a machine. Benchtop knees have their points, but cross-travel isn't one of them. I am skeptical that square or dovetail column mill-drills stack up a knee - some assert that they do. I will leave that to the experts.
Machines are heavy - get an engine hoist. You should be able to score a new one with folding legs for $150 or so (last time I looked), and will not regret it.
Round column mill-drills particularly will cost you some setup work if you have to change the head position. An ER collet chuck and collets can be big help, reducing the vertical space needed to change tools; they make it quick and easy too, which has grown on me. Some R8 collets are nice to have on hand too, as removing the chuck might get enough space to avoid a head movement. In my experience, do not expect ER collets to grab a continuous range of diameters, but it's ok IMHO. You can do a lot with 3/8, 1/2, 5/16 (IIRC) and 3/4 collets. You will want a good drill chuck anyway. Buy a good one (Jacobs probably) and an import taper for it. If you need to drill holes for which you do not have collets, just change to the drill chuck.
So what's so bad about moving the head on a round column machine? Not much; it basically means you have to break out the edge finder again to reset the dials. However, if you center over a rotary table, it can be a bit more problematic if the work blocks what you used to center.
There are tradeoffs, but getting a starter machine that uses R8 tooling will be a good move.
Good luck!
Bill
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no spam wrote:

THere are many variables involved as to exactly what you want to do. Building a machine is a big project. There is a lot of good old iron around that just needs some fixing up and you will have a good rugged machine to use that will have some value to it if you want to upgrade. Ive seen a lot of people turn their nose up when looking at a horizontal mill with a bridgeport head mounted on the over arm. That combination is probably better than any full bridgeport type mill. More rugged, power feed in all directions, a facing head that will spin a 6 inch cutter for any squaring that need to be done. A machine that can face and bore an engine block, and overall a better buy for less money. You can pick up a horizontal for scrap price and have a halfway good machine, IF you reacrape the ways, mount up a bridgeport type head to the overarm you will have an all around machine that you could even use for a lathe by putting a center in the overarm support. I had one once and it worked fine. It was a flat belt thing with an auto transmission that drove the flat belt to the feeds. It had an M head mounted on it.
John
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If you do not have to, please do not try to build your own furnaces. I have many years experience working on belt furnaces (www.beltfurnaces.com). The furnace is more than a few heating element and a belt. It is a complicated system. The furnace could be a dangerous piece of equipment if you do not do it properly. On 1-100 scale, I would rate it at 90.
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I understand caution, but do consider that this is a group oriented toward doing things. You post is not likely to dissuade someone from building a furnance. But you could post things to consider if one does.
One of my uncles said that he quit asking the corporate attorneys for advice on whether or not to do something. They always said that it should not be done. He changed to saying " we are going to do xxxx, how should we proceed. " So if we are going to build a furnance, what should we consider and make sure we do in order to be as safe as possible.
Dan
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On Sun, 14 Oct 2007 22:29:07 -0700, Torrey Hills

That is indeed a complicated looking furnace- but not much like what I'm familiar with as far as home casting goes. Usually it's done with a bucket lined with refractory material and a propane-fueled burner. Some guys even manage to do it with a waste-oil fuel, though I'm not that familiar with that method.
A really hardcore guy who wants to do iron casting would probably make a vertical cupola furnace fueled with coke. More complex than the bucket, but it's still not rocket science. It's very likely the case that you're too close to the situation, and are visualising "state-of-the-art" when "good enough" will do. People have been casting for a really long time, and if you're not getting hung up on having a production situation that is better than the Jones's, it's a realistic and attainable goal for a hobbyist.
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